Acceptance Speech After Receiving Awards from USABC and the Environment Leadership







Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honoured to be here with all of you tonight.

I wish to thank the World Resources Institute, World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the Nature Conservancy, and the Business Council for International Understanding for organizing tonight’s Gala Dinner.

I would like to extend a very warm welcome to my good friend the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, His Excellency Xanana Gusmao. I am also pleased to see Australia’s Foreign Minister, the Honorable Bob Carr, joining us tonight. There are many interesting events going on around town tonight—but you are here. I appreciate that.

I had a wonderful time listening to the speeches that we have heard tonight. This is indeed a night of celebration. A celebration of our friendship, a reaffirmation of our partnership.

Therefore, I accept with humility the “Valuing Nature Award for Indonesia`s leadership in the Coral Reefs Triangle Initiative” presented by the WWF, TNC and World Resources Institute.

And I humbly accept the “Economic Achievement of the 21st Century” award presented by US-ASEAN Business Council.

I see these awards as votes of confidence for Indonesia. A recognition of what we have achieved and what we aspire to achieve.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Every leader in any country faces one and the same basic question: how do we bring progress to our people?

From day one of my presidency, this has been my highest priority. For me, the past eight years of my presidency has been a constant process of learning and adaptation.

I came to office as an ex-general turned Minister turned politician, and learned economics along the way. When I began my term in 2004, my priority was to reduce poverty, fight corruption, improve governance, and speed up reforms, which in my view was in danger of getting stuck in a comfort zone. Appropriately, my development strategy stood on three policy pillars: pro-growth, pro-job, pro-poor.

But every leader must learn to adapt. Soon enough, I found out that the elephant in the room had to be acknowledged: the environment. This issue became much more obvious when we hosted the historic UN Conference on Climate Change – or COP 13 – in Bali in 2007, perhaps the largest UN Convention ever held to that date. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we needed a better-integrated approach to both the economy and the environment.

This, in my view, is a key lesson in governance: the need to be open-minded, and to constantly think outside the box. As leader, it is not my business to cling to an idea. I reach out for results and for what is best for my people.

One moment of revelation came to me in September 2009. It was reported to me that climate negotiations between developed and developing countries had grounded to a halt. Neither side wanted to move to set their own credible and ambitious emission targets. It was a frustrating waiting game, and it seemed no one wanted to break ranks and make the first move. I am not an expert in the intricacies of UN diplomacy, but perhaps that allowed me to step back and take a fresh perspective.

Of course, we all believe in the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”. But I have always thought that in terms of climate responsibility, developed countries must take the lead, while developing countries must also do more. At that moment I was deeply concerned that each of the two sides was digging itself into a hopeless trench.

I therefore instructed my officials to find our own emission reduction target – without waiting for progress in the negotiations. We came up with the 26 – 41 formula: that we would reduce emissions by 26 percent by 2020 relying on our own means, and 41 percent with international support.

It was a risky move, and potentially unpopular, but the unilateral announcement of this 26 – 41 pledge eventually became a game changer. Soon after, other major developing countries announced their ambitious emission targets as well. I was not trying to lead a cavalry charge; I was just trying to be constructive. And, happily, it worked.

The need to think outside the box, and take risks – calculated risks - was also evident in our recent decision to suspend cutting down of trees in primary natural forests and the use of peatland – widely known as the moratorium policy. The adoption of such a policy does not win popularity contests.

It may interest you that democracy is not necessarily synonymous with sustainable forestry. In fact, the worst period of deforestation in our country – when we lost 3,5 million hectares of rainforests - occurred precisely during the height of our democratic transition in 2000.

We have been able to significantly reduce our rate of deforestation since then. We have been able to meet the challenge of delivering an effective and long-term national forest governance. A governan-ce that would provide better support for local communities, benefit future generations. And a governance that reflects the notion that the fate of these forests, which function as the lungs of the planet, should also be a matter of international responsibility.

That is why I decided to break new path by working together with Norway, to bring into reality the concept of REDD+. Again, this was not a popular move – I was criticized for it, which I took in good spirit. But I knew it was a necessary decision for the long-term, and it was consistent with our national interests and environmental obligation. I managed to bring the governors of key forestry provinces on board, secured their commitment, and negotiated a fair deal with Norway who agreed to provide up to 1 billion dollars for this project.

Today, we have a standing moratorium that would give us the opportunity to seriously engage in forest and peat land governance reforms. And today, approximately 35 percent of Indonesia’s tropical rainforests is permanently designated for conservation. In the meantime, we are aggressively implementing reforestation. And I personally led a national tree planting campaign that succeeded in planting one billion trees per year – so far, some three billion trees have been planted. That’s almost one for every 2 persons on the planet.

How we got deeply involved in this kind of environmental activism is a story by itself. Let me tell that story now.

I have now pursued a development vision of “sustainable growth with equity.”

This rests on two key elements. The first is the need for growth with equity.

The second is the imperative of sustainable development.

Why growth with equity ? Well, the Indonesian economy has been doing on a steady upswing. Our GDP growth has continued to climb up, except in 2009 during the financial crisis when we grew by 4,5 percent. This year, we project to have the second highest GDP growth in Asia, after China – at around 6,5 percent. We are now the largest economy in Southeast Asia, and the 15th largest in the world. We aim to be in the world’s top 10 largest economies in the coming decades.

But we are not going after growth for the sake of growth. I want to avoid growth that leads to exclusion, marginalization and resentment, because that would be a dangerous growth. I want growth that reduces inequity, and empower the poor so that they will rise out of their poverty. It must be growth that spread prosperity, create jobs and economic opportunities for the rural and urban poor so that they can live in dignity.

Equity is really about justice. A society that loves fairness and justice must strive for equity. That is the only way we can imbue our people with a sense of a shared destiny. Economic growth and justice must therefore go hand in hand. They must reinforce each other. The economic process must be inclusive enough to include as many actors as possible so that no one feels left out. And no one feels aggrieved and unjustly neglected.

But soon enough I realized that growth with equity cannot endure if it is attained at the cost of environmental degradation. This is why when some say Indonesia could one day reach 10 % growth, I say : “Perhaps, but at what environmental costs ? Its not worth it”. That’s what I say.

We must create and distribute wealth without diminishing the bounty of our natural environment. In that way we can meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs.

A key part of sustainable growth with equity is recognizing that the serious climate and environ-mental problem that planet earth faces are not imagined. That is why we need to re-fashion our life style so that we live to meet our need, not greed.

On that basis, to the three policy pillars of my Government—pro -growth, pro-job and pro-poor—I added a fourth: pro-environment.

Strangely, there are still those who ask the question: is it possible to strike a balance between growth with equity and sustainable development? I say it is not only possible. It is an imperative. Yes, we can strike that balance.

We can achieve sustainable forestry while still improving the livelihood of the rural poor.

We can maintain the trajectory of our economic growth while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

We can harvest the renewable resources of our oceans and seas while conserving their biodiversity and protecting their pristine integrity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, About our oceans and seas: people often forget that they form the larger part of our planet. That is why I am so pleased to have initiated and nurtured the regional collaboration called the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI).

The area known as the coral triangle is magnificent. Indonesia alone has many seas in that area: the Arafura sea, the Banda sea, the Celebes sea, the Halmahera sea. Its treasure of biodiversity in this chain of ecosystem is simply immense. It is so breathtakingly beautiful and bountiful it has been celebrated as the “Amazon of the seas.” Our people fish, swim, sail and play in these amazing waters. Our way of life and our culture and values are all about mother earth and its wondrous oceans. We cannot help but admire and love it. What we often forget is the responsibility to protect these seas and the riches in it.

More significantly, this is an area that is critical to the livelihood of the peoples in our region. It is estimated that some 120 million people are directly dependent on CTI areas for their food security, and this has been the case for generations. It is where they make a living and make their way of life.

And yet it is an area that is under various threats to environmental and economic sustain-ability. It is being overfished. Human irresponsibility has resulted in the rapid destruction of its coral reefs. Marine life cycles within it are being disrupted.

It is therefore critical to get the economics and the ecology right in the CTI area, and to do it in time before it is too late.

That is why I did not hesitate to initiate and promote CTI in 2007. We worked with all sides to build it brick-by-brick so that this great idea can become an inter-governmental policy leading to regional collaboration.

I knew it would not be a hard sell because no Government would want to see a degradation of their marine and coastal areas. So we got the ball rolling at the APEC Summit in Sydney in 2007. The CTI was recognized in the APEC Declaration.

After the APEC Summit, we convened the World Ocean Conference in Manado in 2009, and produced the Manado Declaration. Six countries took part in this milestone event for the CTI: Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Solomon Islands. This Manado Declaration became the basis for establishing a regional mechanism for Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security - now known as CTI CFF.

We now have an interim regional secretariat. The next move would be to make it a permanent one. This will come after every CTI country has ratified the process. Indonesia is now in the process of ratification. We urge other CTI countries to accelerate their ratification process.

In the same way that we have committed ourselves to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, we have made a national pledge to achieve 20 million hectares of marine protected areas across the country by 2020. At this moment, Indonesia has already secured 13.4 million hectares.

When Indonesia hosts APEC next year, we look forward to the economies on the Pacific Rim defining how to facilitate trade in a way that sustains and improves the bounty of the largest ocean on the planet. The lessons we have learned and continue to learn through the Coral Triangle Initiative will tell us how to build our economies while conserving the region’s unparalleled natural resource base.

What I am telling you is that we are in the midst of a grand undertaking, and I invite each and every one of you in the business community to take part in it. This is not only a matter of conserving the environment, it is also a great way to ensure the well-being and prosperity of the local coastal communities.

The concept of “sustainable growth with equity” – which I would like to believe is one of universal significance – would be a utopia unless all the stake-holders work together. This is why I always urge my Government to actively work with business and the NGOs and all those who share our common goal. And I also hope that business people and environmentalists can enhance their collaboration. They talk to one another instead of talking past one another. Within your conversa-tions, lie the answers to our global problems and challenges.

Environment and business do not constitute a trade-off zero-sum game. In Indonesia, we have instances where the development of palm oil plantations goes hand-in-hand with conservation of endangered species. For example, there is a positive collaboration recently established to conserve orang utans by (Sinarmas) a large Indonesian plantation company and (Dr. Birute Galdikas), the international activist icon for orang-utans protection. We were happy to help facilitate that collaboration.

The other example is the more difficult effort to conserve the few surviving Sumatran tigers, as their habitat is encroached upon by human economic activities. Large private companies collaborated to create sanctuaries for the tigers.

Again, all this simply means doing the right thing, taking a calculated risk, and to be pragmatic and avoid being dogmatic in pursuing our common goals.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Before I conclude, let us think outside the box; let us not be stuck with old and timid ideas. When circumstances demand it, let us not let the perfect be enemy of the good. Let us find ways by which we can serve the cause of sustainable development together and thus prosper together.

I therefore call on you to join hands with Indonesia and build a strong partnership among the business community, civil society and my Government. Let that partnership work through the development of wise and supportive policies, investment and financing, technology sharing and capacity building.

And I am confident that it will work: it will make us all prosperous. It will also reassure us that we have done what is right for the planet we live on, the teeming millions whose life and livelihood depend on the environment, and future generations of humankind.

I thank you.